The creation of poetry

There is no way of knowing, when the art of poetry first began. It is assumed that the origins are steeped in an oral tradition, frequently employed as a means of recording history, storytelling to an audience, perhaps sung, often paying tribute to deities. To aid memorization, there was already a form to these, including rhythm and repetition.

When written composition began, it meant poets began to write for an absent audience, though likely scholars. The earliest written work may have been The Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor which is a story of an Ancient Egyptian’s voyage written at about 2500 BCE. The Epic of Gilgamesh from ancient Mesopotamia, was impressed in cuneiform  around 2100 BCE. These are considered to be distinct stories. Later came The Vedas, which is a collection of hymns and other religious texts composed in India between 1500 and 1000 BCE. The oldest existing collection of Chinese poetry, dates from the 11th to 7th centuries BCE. It is one of the “Five Classics” traditionally said to have been compiled by Confucius. The Greek Odyssey dates from about 800 to 675 BCE.

Then, moving right along to a personal favourite – Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales was written in 1380 CE. And then further on, to my much loved Romantic verses: the poets who spring to mind include William Blake, William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats. Modernist poetry in the English language started in the early years of the 20th Century among many, W.B. Yeats who used symbols from ordinary life. Canadian poet Dorothy Livesay’s work was first published when she was only 28.  I happily sat at her feet, as she held her audience captive in salons.

The word ‘poetry’ comes from the ancient Greek word poieo (ποιεω ) meaning ‘I create’

Poetry is an art form, using language in a more concise, tight manner than prose, which is expansive and less condensed. Poetry conveys feelings, emotions or ideas applying such devices as alliteration, internal rhyme and also relying on imagery, word association, as well as musical language like dissonance. The interactive layering of all these generate meaning as to what marks poetry. It is to be noted that English and European poetry often use rhyme, generally at the end of lines in such formats as ballads, sonnets and rhyming couplets. Just as the Greek classic poetry, however, much modern poetry does not use rhyme. In more recent times, the rise of  poetry reading have led to a resurgence of performance poetry, which dates back to the very origins of the art form.

Poetry is something I have always written, experimenting with various traditions, such as ballads and sonnets and even Haiku. For me, poetry is fundamentally about expressing a particular idea, about a particular matter, in a succinct manner, using techniques associated with writing in general. I’m a story teller, and thus my ‘style’ demonstrates that technique. I have compiled a selection of poems written over many years, in my latest book “Echoes of Footsteps”.

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